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Helcim Review: Best Credit Card Processors

By
Lori Fairbanks
,
business.com writer
| Updated
Aug 16, 2019
Home
> Finance
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Helcim is a Canadian processor that's been in business since 2006 and entered the U.S. market in 2013. We selected Helcim as the best credit card processing company for small businesses because it's one of the most transparent processing services in the payments industry, offering interchange-plus pricing and posting its complete rates and fees online.

Helcim

Helcim

The Best Credit Card Processors of 2019

The Verdict

Helcim, our choice for the best credit card processing company for small business, provides interchange-plus pricing to its merchants and posts its complete rates and fees online. It's also one of the few companies with a rate-lock guarantee.

Helcim's retail rates are lower than average, and it's one of the few processing companies that has a rate guarantee, which means that the interchange-plus markup percentage and per-transaction fee you pay won't increase during the life of your account. It has quality customer service and no lengthy contract or termination fees, as it provides its services on a month-to-month basis.

This transparent provider offers in-person and online credit card processing services to many different business types and sizes, including retail, restaurant, e-commerce, property management and service-based businesses. It also works with registered charitable organizations, including UNICEF and the Children's Wish Foundation, with discounted processing fees for nonprofits. 

Visit our best picks page to see all our recommendations for credit card processing companies.

Pricing and Terms

Every credit card processor pays the same interchange rates and card brand fees. The only negotiable portion of processing rates is the margin, or markup, that the processor adds on top of these base costs.

Industry experts favor interchange-plus pricing, because you can clearly see how much you're paying the processor, whereas tiered pricing lumps costs and margins together. In addition to offering this pricing model, the best processors post their rates online and have no hidden fees, so you know what to expect when you get your bill. Here's a breakdown of Helcim's pricing and terms.

Interchange-Plus Rates

Helcim is exceptionally transparent with its pricing. It doesn't just post its markup; it posts all of its rates and fees online. It also gives you examples of how much you'll actually pay when you accept different types of cards, adding its margin to interchange rates and card brand fees. Here are the interchange-plus fees you'll pay when you use Helcim to accept credit and debit card payments:

  • In-person credit card processing, with cards accepted using a card reader: 0.25% + $0.08 above interchange
  • Online credit card processing, including e-commerce sales, online invoice payments and transactions keyed into the virtual terminal: 0.45% + $0.25 above interchange
  • Discounted rate for registered charities: 0.10% + $0.10 above interchange

Helcim offers volume-based discounts, starting with businesses that process more than $25,000 per month, with deeper discounts available for higher-volume businesses. You can see its full discount schedule on the pricing page of its website.

Credit Card Processing Fees

Helcim's transparent pricing extends to its fees, as it also posts them in full online, which is a rarity among credit card processors. It charges a single monthly account fee; the amount depends on how you accept payments.

  • Monthly fee for businesses that accept credit cards in person: $15. This fee includes access to the Helcim Commerce platform, which has a point-of-sale (POS) app for Apple and Android phones and tablets.
  • Monthly fee for businesses that accept credit cards online: $35. A hosted online store is included with this fee, as is access to Helcim Commerce.
  • Monthly fee for businesses that accept credit cards in person and online: $50. This fee includes the Helcim Commerce platform with both the POS app and a hosted online store.

You'll notice that Helcim's monthly fee is higher than many, but it's also the only ongoing fee you pay, as it includes PCI compliance and access to the Helcim Commerce platform, which comes with a virtual terminal and multiple additional features. Most processors charge extra fees for these services.

Here's a list of fees you won't pay with Helcim:

  • No application or setup fee
  • No monthly minimum processing requirement
  • No payment gateway setup fee
  • No monthly payment gateway fee
  • No annual fee
  • No PCI compliance fee
  • No early termination or cancellation fees

Incidental and Optional Fees

You may be charged some fees on a per-occurrence basis or if you add extra services to your account. Here are some examples:

  • Next-day deposits: $10 per month. It normally takes two business days for Helcim to deposit processed funds into your account; if you prefer to receive your money faster, it costs extra.
  • Chargeback fee: $15 per occurrence
  • Additional location or merchant ID: $15 per month
  • ACH processing: $25 per month
  • Level 3 data processing: $25 per month
  • Multicurrency processing: $25 per month
  • Changing your business name or bank account: $25 per occurrence
  • PCI noncompliance: $60 per month until compliant. If you fail to establish PCI compliance within your first 90 days with Helcim or neglect to renew it annually, you're charged this fee until you're compliant. This fee is intentionally steep to motivate you to take care of your PCI obligations.

Terms

When reviewing credit card processors, we looked for companies that don't tie you to long-term contracts. You pay monthly for Helcim's services and can cancel your account at any time without incurring an early termination or cancellation fee of any kind.

Even though there are no lengthy contractual obligations, you still want to read the application, terms of service and program guide, as you would with any account provider, to ensure you understand what you're agreeing to, are aware of all possible fees, and know what the cancellation procedure entails.

Helcim doesn't work with high-risk businesses, so small business owners should read the company's acceptable use policy, which is available on its website, to make sure that your business type and the products or services you offer are not on the prohibited list.

Features

When you sign up with Helcim, it sets you up with your own merchant account, and you can accept credit and debit cards from Visa, Mastercard, Discover, American Express, JCB and China UnionPay.

Helcim Commerce

Your account includes access to Helcim Commerce, an all-in-one merchant platform that you'll use to manage your account. The platform includes the following features:

  • Virtual terminal: With this tool, you can use your computer to key in credit card transactions. You can also issue refunds, void transactions, preauthorize credit cards and accept payments made through ACH transfers.
  • CRM (customer relationship management): You can add contact information and notes to customer profiles, view purchase histories and store credit card details in Helcim's secure vault. You can also add your branding to Helcim's self-service customer portals, which is where your customers can update their contact and credit card information, view their order histories, and pay invoices online.
  • Inventory management: Helcim Commerce includes a product database that you can use to create a product catalog, set prices and track inventory. You can set it to alert you when stock is running low and run reports to identify your bestsellers.
  • Online invoicing: This tool allows you to create and send an unlimited number of invoices and payment reminders. It also allows you to accept online invoice payments.
  • Recurring payments: You can manage subscriptions and recurring payments with this feature. It allows you to customize your subscription plans with trial periods, one-time fees, and metered and prorated billing.
  • Free tablet and phone POS app for retail accounts: Your retail processing account with Helcim comes with a POS app that supports unlimited mobile devices – there's no limit on how many users you can add to your system. You can use the web-based version of the app with your computer or use the mobile version with Apple and Android phones and tablets. However, for U.S. merchants, the app doesn't yet integrate with an EMV terminal, so you'll have to use the POS system alongside the terminal, which takes an extra step.
  • Free hosted online store for e-commerce accounts: Your online credit card processing account from Helcim comes with a hosted online store that has a shopping cart, discount codes, shipping integrations, a content management system (CMS), a theme editor, SEO settings and an SSL certificate. You can use it with the subdomain name it assigns you, or you can purchase and use your own domain name. If you already have a website, you can accept online transactions by adding Helcim's hosted payment pages to it or by using its payment gateway API with Helcim.js.

Processing Equipment Options

Helcim encourages customers to purchase their processing equipment upfront and doesn't offer leases, which are notoriously expensive and noncancelable. You can choose from three Ingenico terminals, all of which have EMV and NFC technology, so you can accept chip cards, contactless cards, and mobile card payments like Apple Pay and Google Pay.

The company offers a mobile card reader, but it isn't EMV compliant, so you won't want to use it as your main method of accepting credit cards, as it leaves you open to counterfeit fraud liability.

If you want to add peripherals like a cash drawer, receipt printer and barcode scanner to your system to create a POS station, you can purchase them from third-party vendors. You can find a list of compatible models on Helcim's website.

Integrations

Helcim integrates with multiple shopping carts, e-commerce platforms, payment gateways and business software, including QuickBooks, Shopify, BigCommerce, Magento and Authorize.Net. It also has an API available if you prefer to build a custom integration for your website or app.

Additional Considerations

Here are more details about Helcim to keep in mind as you choose a processing service for your business.

  • Application process: You want to apply for Helcim one to two weeks before you need to start accepting credit card payments. After you fill out Helcim's online application, the company emails you requesting documentation, such as your business license, a utility bill or your driver's license, and a voided check. On average, it takes one or two business days for the underwriters to approve your application. Once you're approved, the company ships your processing equipment, which takes another three or four business days to arrive.
  • Free trial: You can take Helcim Commerce for a test run before you sign up, as the company offers a 30-day free trial. The trial run doesn't include payment processing – you'll need an account for that – but you can try out all the other features on the platform.
  • Security: Helcim is a PCI Level 1 Service Provider, complying with the Payment Card Industry's highest standards. It secures payment data using encryption and tokenization technologies, and two-factor authentication is available to keep your account from being compromised.
  • Customer support: The quality of a processor's customer service is an important consideration. The Helcim representative we spoke with was friendly and gave us precise information about rates, fees, and service terms. He answered our questions with candor, even when we asked about the POS system's lack of credit card terminal integration for U.S. businesses. Phone support is available 24/7, with after-hour calls directed to Elavon, Helcim's back-end processor. Helcim's website is also a valuable customer resource, with a searchable knowledgebase, how-to guides and a blog.

Limitations

Helcim is the best credit card processor for small businesses because of its transparency, lower-than-average retail rates, few fees, quality customer service, month-to-month terms and lack of termination fee. However, there are some limitations that you should consider before deciding if Helcim is the right credit card processing company for your business 

First, Helcim doesn't have an EMV-compliant mobile card reader. If you prefer to use a terminal or accept payments online, this may not be an issue, but if you want to use a mobile device to accept credit cards, you should choose a provider that has an EMV mobile credit card reader so you're not liable for counterfeit fraud.

Another issue to be aware of is that the POS app included with your retail account doesn't yet directly integrate with the EMV credit card terminals for U.S. merchants. This is inconvenient, but the app is free with your account, so it may be worth the extra step it takes to ring up a sale using the app and then manually enter the total in the terminal to begin processing the transaction. The app integrates with the mobile card reader, but as discussed above, it isn't EMV compliant, so for now, your best option is to use the app alongside the terminal.

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Helcim

Helcim

The Best Credit Card Processors of 2019

The Verdict

Helcim, our choice for the best credit card processing company for small business, provides interchange-plus pricing to its merchants and posts its complete rates and fees online. It's also one of the few companies with a rate-lock guarantee.

Lori Fairbanks
Lori Fairbanks
Lori Fairbanks has years of experience writing and editing for both print and online publications. After graduating from Brigham Young University with a Bachelor of Arts in English, she worked as a magazine editor and then as a freelance writer and editor for a variety of companies, including marketing firms and a medical university. She now writes for Business.com and Business News Daily about financial systems and services for small businesses, such as accounting software, credit card processing and point-of-sale systems.